Published On: Tue, May 15th, 2018

What the sale of the Panthers means for the NFL

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The Carolina Panthers are expected to be sold to billionaire David Tepper for a whopping $2.2 billion on Tuesday, marking the richest deal in NFL history.

It’s a landmark agreement for a number of reasons, and it says plenty about the league and the value of its franchises.

Cash is still king – and so is the NFL

For all the talk about declining ratings, registrations, and interest in the sport, football remains king. Tepper is believed to be the world’s fifth-richest hedge fund manager, with an estimated net worth of $11 billion. He dipped his toe into NFL ownership by buying a five percent stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, and, after making a significant return on that investment, he’s chosen to go all-in on his own franchise.

Tepper reportedly shelled out $2.2 billion in cash to own the Panthers outright, proving some of the richest men in the world still want a piece of the NFL.

Last fall, the NBA’s Houston Rockets sold for a record $2.2 billion to Tilman Fertitta, who trumpeted the deal by extolling the virtues of professional basketball over football.

“I would have been scared to pay $2.2 billion for an NFL franchise at this point. The NBA is where it’s at,” Fertitta said at the time.

Tepper had no such qualms.

Though they sold for the same price, the Rockets were estimated as the NBA’s eighth-most valuable franchise in 2016, while the Panthers were estimated by Forbes in 2017 to be the NFL’s 21st-most valuable team.

The last deal before the potential legalization of gambling

Tepper may already be an even richer man hours after buying the Panthers.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

A day before the sale, the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for states to legalize sports betting. Once these new gambling avenues are in place, the value of franchises across professional sports is expected to rise.

Five-to-10 states are expected to allow bets before kickoff of the next NFL season, betting analyst Jon Campbell told theScore on Monday.

The impact won’t only be felt in the access and availability for bettors across the country, but in increased revenue from marketing and advertisements. Leagues may also look to profit by creating their own sportsbooks. And that’s just in the immediate future.

The next owner looking to sell may scoff at any offers below Tepper’s pre-Supreme Court ruling $2.2 billion.

More money, more money.

Hot market, soaring prices

Despite the exorbitant sum Tepper reportedly paid, the price tag was expected to be even higher.

Forbes estimated the Panthers to be worth $2.3 billion as recently as eight months ago, and other projections valued the team at $2.6 billion, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer.

Seller Jerry Richardson could’ve made more, as it’s believed Tepper wasn’t the highest bidder for the club. But he was the most qualified, having already been vetted by the NFL for his ownership stake in the Steelers, and may have promised not to move the team, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer.

Other qualified candidates included Ben Navarro, the founder of a local financial group; Alan Kestenbaum, a steel company CEO; and e-commerce entrepreneur Michael Rubin. The franchise also drew interest from entertainers, music moguls, and current and retired athletes such as Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning.

The market was hot, and the numbers are trending in the right direction. The Miami Dolphins sold for $1.1 billion in 2008, and the Buffalo Bills commanded a $1.4-billion fee in 2014. It’s only up from here, and that’s good news for any franchise.

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